The ABCs of healthy foods, pt. 3

Here is the final round of good foods, starting where we left off last week:

Peas — seeds that grow in pods — are packed with protein and other life-enriching nutrients. Split peas are the dried version of this popular legume. And don’t be afraid of this starchy vegetable if you have diabetes. Peas contain a carb called resistant starch which may help control blood sugar levels and may even help with weight loss.

Quinoa is considered a “pseudo-cereal. We cook its seeds like a grain, but the quinoa plant is closer botanically to spinach or Swiss chard. Quinoa is considered a valuable whole grain, says the Whole Grains Council (www.wholegrainscouncil.org). It is also one of only a few plant foods known to be a complete protein.

Strawberries: One cup of this red fruit more than meets our vitamin C requirement for the day. Strawberries are also rich in substances that may lower our risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to some studies. Keep strawberries as dry as possible, say the folks at Driscoll’s. Store them in their original container between 32-34 degrees F. Rinse them gently with cool water right before you are ready to eat them. And let them reach room temperature before serving to enhance their natural flavor.

Tea can sooth tired minds and adds fluid to tired bodies. Tea drinkers tend to have lower blood pressures and a reduced risk for strokes, according to some studies. Interestingly, green, black and oolong teas are made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis; they are just processed differently. Cup for cup, black tea has about half the caffeine of coffee while green and oolong varieties have less.

Udon. I turned to Marilyn Uwate, my Japanese dietitian friend, on this one. Udon is a noodle made from wheat flour and widely used in Japan.

“It is usually eaten as a soup,” she said. “Look for whole grain versions for a better boost of nutrients.”

Vegetables! Plants we eat for food are as varied as the nutrients they supply. Think of vegetables as nature’s vitamin, mineral and fiber supplements. For best health, let this group of foods grace your table often.

Walnuts. Besides being the nut with the highest amount of plant-based omega-3 fats (the good-for-you fat), walnuts are certified by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy food. Before you eat the whole bag, remember that a “serving” is considered 12-14 walnuts halves or 1/4 cup, which is about a handful.

Xanthan gum might not be on your shopping list but is a common ingredient in salad dressings and sauces. According to the International Food Information Council, xanthan gum helps stabilize opposing ingredients like oil and water. This food additive is also gluten-free so has become a useful way to mimic the properties of wheat flour in gluten-free breads and pastries.

Yogurt! A staple food in many cultures, yogurt is a great source of essential protein and calcium. And because it is fermented, it helps to keep healthful bacteria in our guts. Scientists now believe good gut bacteria not only helps fight off infections, but may also protect us from intestinal disorders and help with weight control.

Zucchini. Ta da! Don’t make fun of this incredibly versatile summer squash. It’s considered a non-starchy vegetable with only 25 calories and 5 grams of carbs per cup. I like it roasted or sauteed with a little olive oil and seasonings.


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